The Robert N. Butler Columbia Aging Center at Columbia University is an interdisciplinary education and research organization dedicated to changing the way people think about aging. The Columbia Aging Center consists of two branches, the Aging Lab and the International Longevity Centre. The lab conducts research into ways people’s experiences, history, and behavior can affect the aging process, such as the way physical exercise can slow the rate of cognitive decline. This is called the positive plasticity of aging. The International Longevity Centre provides research on the growing elder population that can be translated into policies and practices.
In this interview, Dr. Ruth Finkelstein, the associate director of the Columbia Aging Center, discusses the need for more options for retirees, given their increased longevity and the increasing size of the senior population. She addresses the need to reenvision aging and adult education through programs such as the Age Smart Employer initiative. This program recognizes and honors employers who are models of excellence in their elder friendly and age inclusive work practices and policies. Finkelstein also describes the work that the International Longevity Centre does to combat stereotypes on aging and the elderly through the Exceeding Expectations initiative. This initative profiles New York City residents who have exceeded the average life expectancy of eighty one years.
The work of the Columbia Aging Center upholds Butler’s vision of an international collaboration that influences societies to plan for and foster successful, productive, engaged aging for its residents.